The Alchemysts/Bevis Frond - Gelsenkirchen (GR), Kaue (April 13, 1999)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
It was the sixth gig already in the Kaue by Bevis Frond since 1994, and according to my tickets I have seen them all. This time there were about 150 people, though they have filled this nice little venue with up to 400 more than once. The gig started later as planned because the bands arrived late due to being stuck in a traffic jam. So me and my wife took seat in the cafe of the Kaue drinking some coffee. A good friend of ours, Rainer Wangler, suddenly appeared. He's also a big Hawkwind fan, a real expert in all things about HW, and he's got the largest HW live tape collection I've ever seen. At 9pm the doors finally opened. We went straight to the merchandise stall where I bought the new Bevis Frond CD and double vinyl, the new Ade Shaw CD and a T-shirt, which cost me 110 DM (or $60) and a stern glance from my wife. Anyway, the Alchemysts started their 45 min set just after I came back from bringing the just bought stuff into my car. They are a 3-piece band from Somerset, UK and do some real good heavy psych music influenced by the Stooges and the MC5. They've released 2 albums already: 'One-eyed again' (1993, self-released and hard to find now) and 'Over and Out' (1997, on Camera Obscura), both were sold this evening. I don't like all their stuff though. They do some short garage punk songs which are nothing special to my taste. But when they do extended feedback-laden guitar jams like "Stoned in Jerusalem" or "Alpha Centauri" they are simply mind-blowing! All in all a real good set from a well-rehearsed band that has existed for 10 years now.
Bevis Frond started just 15 min after the Alchemysts. Both bands used the same drum kit so there wasn't much to change on stage. They chose "House of Mountains" as an intro jam, a real good song to start with. Andy Ward isn't with them anymore due to some health problems. So Ric Gunther, ex-Outskirts of Infinity and Bevis Frond drummer from 1990 to 1993, stepped in for the drum job on this tour. And he's an animal! Ok, Andy's a more technically skilled drummer, but he fits more into a prog rock band like Camel, for whom he played in the 80's. Ric's playing is more expressive and fits more into the psychedelic guitar mayhem of the Frond. Nick played incredibly powerful this evening, even the pop songs, which I usually don't like that much, sounded great: "Hole Song #2", "Virus" (a brilliant tune from the new album "Vavona Burr"), "He'd Be a Diamond" (which Nick introduced as a song covered by Teenage Fanclub as the b-side of a single) and "Stars Burn Out" (which is a song about a band called, well... Teenage Fanclub). In between they did a great version of my all time-favourite song "Maybe" (of the first album "Miasma") and a far-out version of "Stoned Train Driver" (off '95's "Superseeder"). Another three new songs were performed: "Leave a Light On," "Temple Falls" and "Begging Bowl", an 8 min typical Bevis Frond monster song. "Stain on the Sun" was again a beautiful version of the classic track of "New River Head" with those howling teardrenching guitar sounds that always sends shivers down my spine. The set was closed as usual with "Signed D.C." I can't remember one single gig that I've seen (of about 20 so far) that they haven't done this Arthur Lee song. And this version was good as usual, the electric dulcimer is still great to hear. They came back for an encore and played another new song: "Reformation Blues" off a forthcoming album called "Acid Jam 2" that is already recorded and will be released this summer, featuring some live jams in the studio with friends Bari Watts, Simon House and Debbie Saloman. This song is, as the title suggests, a slow blues song, not brilliant, but it grows with every listen. "Eyes in the Back of my Head" followed next with some 15 mins of very psychedelic improvisations in between, with Adrian doing some bass guitar feedback freakout. The band finally left the stage after 2 hours, but a few minutes later Nick Saloman came back alone, picked up his electric guitar and played a 10 min medley of "In Another Year," "This Corner of England" and "It Won't Come Again". It was one of the best ever Bevis Frond gigs I've been to, they were really into it this time.
Over the last five years the Frond played a lot of mediocre and boring concerts, so this gig marks the return of one of the very best bands ever! A few words to the new albums: "Vavona Burr" is another 78 min Nick Saloman solo effort (He played every instrument, did the production & artwork etc.). I wish he had done it with his live band, because there are some real good songs on it, and the lyrics are fantastic again. But musically it could have been so much better. Adrian's album is more experimental, but again he plays all the instruments and programmed the drum-machine, except for two tracks on which Ric Gunther plays. Simon House, Bari Watts, Nick Saloman and Aaron Shaw all guested on 2 or 3 tracks, making this album more versatile than his first 2 albums. Not a bad one, but I'm looking forward to that Acid Jam 2 album on which all these great musicians come together and do a live session, and I'm sure this will be brilliant.
Reviewed by Andreas Stüwe